Brave Blade
by sunburstbasser



Brave Blade is a vertical shooter which definitely seems to have a story involving blowing stuff up. You'll get a short cutscene before each level which gives a setting, plus a nice ending.

The year was 2000, and Raizing was ready to try something new. Shinobu Yagawa had headed up three excellent games by this point, the Mahou Daisakusen series saw a third entry in 2000, and Soukyugurentai and 1944 were both successful shooters. For their next step, Raizing used a setting combining the knights of Mahou with the grit of Garegga. And to make it even more ambitious, Brave Blade was Raizing's first and only shooter to be made entirely of polygons.

And they hit the polygon ceiling HARD.

The hardware used for Brave Blade was not developed by Raizing themselves, but was instead the Sony ZN1. The ZN1 is in essence a Playstation with a few tweaks but similar overall performance. I'll go into why this is important in more detail later.

Brave Blade has a somewhat unique control scheme. A fires your shot, no big deal. The B button turns your ship into a huge robot and swings a melee weapon, like a sword or an axe. Hold down the B button, and you'll put up a shield that prevents death by bullet, but each bullet eaten with the shield uses a portion of the power, indicated by the bar in the lower left. When the bar is full, the C button turns your ship invincible and bumps up your speed and attack power. This can only be used when the gauge in the lower left is full. There is no bomb attack.

Interestingly, not a single one of Raizing's former characters return, nor do any variations on them. Raizing came up with five characters and vehicles unique to Brave Blade. And rather than calling them "airplanes" or "mechs," they are called Runeswords.

REM HIGHLAND in the EGZERG


The Egzerg has firepower concentrated forward. The side shot is a straight missile. In robot form, the Egzerg swings a sword that has a very wide arc and can hit to the sides and slightly to the rear.


BALGIOUS BEOWULF in the BALBAROI


The Balbaroi is another Runesword with firepower concentrated forwards. The side shot is a drill missile, which stops when it hits an enemy and does damage before exploding. The axe attack in robot form seems practically identical to the Egzerg's sword, perhaps a touch slower to come out.


ROSITA EM FLAMBERGE in the TIA RIEL


The Tia Riel packs homing shots. The melee weapon is a pilum, and spins directly in front of the robot. It does not hit to the sides at all.


KEITH KILSTEIN in the GAY BOLK


The Gay Bolk has a freeway shot. This doesn't mean it shoots overpasses at the enemies, instead it shoots in the direction opposite of where you move. This unfortunately makes it insanely hard to target an enemy, as you'll often be shooting where they aren't. The spear makes up a little bit, as it seems to have good range despite only hitting in front.


KANA N in the G PAIN


The G Pain has what Raizing calls a Search shot. The side shot simply points at enemies. Not bad actually. The Jamadhar robot weapon doesn't do it for me though. It has a short range and is very slow to come out.


The only one I seemed to do alright with was the Egzerg.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good for a Playstation launch title. But by 2000, making your game look like it came from 1996 wasn't going to cut it. The backgrounds are textured, and it looks slightly better than Xevious 3D-G, but if you look close you can actually see the lines where background polygons are joining up. The backgrounds themselves don't really have much depth for being rendered in 3D. It all looks fairly bland to be honest. In another hit against the graphics, by this time the Sega NAOMI was available and the same year that Brave Blade was released, Takumi released Giga Wing 2. Hell, Taito released Ray Storm several years earlier on effectively the same hardware as Brave Blade and it looks considerably better.



I played this game using MAME version .128, which does not properly emulate sound. I did manage to track down the soundtrack for the game, however. Manabu Namiki returns and provides pretty good music. He uses a lot more sweeping orchestral sounds than in most of his other shmup soundtracks. It sounds to me like he had taken some notes from Hitoshi Sakimoto's work on Radiant Silvergun. I haven't ever seen a gameplay video or anything that has working sound, so I have no clue if the explosions and sound effects are any good. Go ahead and take a listen to the music:

Scoring is the same medal chaining system from the Yagawa games, with a catch. Switch to robot form, and you can slap medals with your melee weapon to bump their value up. While medals normally top out at 10,000, keep batting them and you can get them up to 100,000 points each. The barrier helps to grab medals, allowing you to simply wade through a couple bullets. Unlike the Yagawa games, Brave Blade has no rank system that I've discerned.



Once you've selected your character, you'll begin above Dirt. Thats the name of the stage. Lots of white enemies in this stage. Most of them look like missiles or stealth bombers, plus a few tanks. The stage has three distinct sections. The first is wallpaper that slightly resembles forest. The second is a canyon. On the other side of the canyon are a bunch of tanks, slap them with your melee weapon for medals and take out the mid boss behind them. This leads to the castle, the last section. And in under one minute, the first stage is over and the boss shows up.

Each boss gets a little intro screen with their name. The first one is Gunhead Golem, and I'd honestly rather be playing Gunhed right now than Brave Blade. GG starts off as a tank that looks and moves suspiciously like the first boss from Taito's Ray Storm. And he fires a ton of destructible bullets, nearly all of his attacks can simply be charged through. Do enough damage and the camera swings around slightly and he stands up. To make it more fun, I like to imagine the sound he makes is the same as in the old Transformers cartoons when the Transformers would change. He has a few normal bullets in this form, but still a lot of destructible bullets.



The second stage is near the Moon Tower, and eventually in it. The tower itself has a spiral staircase on the wall. Go climb 10 flights of stairs, then imagine doing that for 50 miles. I can envision devout monks doing this as some sort of pilgrimage. Above the tower, blocks start falling and you need to shoot your way through. THIS is how Tetris should be played.

The boss is called the Moon Sacrificer. Seriously, these names rival Darius for silliness. Moon Sacrificer is effectively a rocket ship with arms. He spits out a couple options that fling missiles your way. He also fires slow, straight bullets. Sit between them and shoot him. Not a really interesting fight, by my third time seeing him I beat him on one life.



Difficulty is actually really low in the first two stages. The third stage, over the great channel Kress, starts picking up. The great channel itself isn't really apparent, as most of the stage is spent over clouds or a floating stone fortress. Enemies start to get more aggressive here, like a red guy that looks a little like Bashinet. Normal enemies start firing more bullets here as well. While your hitbox is small, I found it a little hard to figure out just where it was. I found myself dying without quite knowing where I got hit or which bullet got me.

Much more fun is the boss, Great Mouth Nightmare. This guy has a ton of turrets that mostly spit unaimed shots. In fact, once you've taken down a couple the gaps are wide enough that he can't hit you. Simply kick back and wait for your barrier to recharge, then hit him with the super attack. In his second form, he is much smaller and has a couple arms and a mouth. This part is a lot more vicious. And with that name, all this guy needs is a tail and some fins and he'd be perfectly at home in a Darius game. His death animation even has him chomping as he dies, ala Killer Higia.



Stage four is the industrial zones of Bazelord. In the backgrounds, you'll see loads of steel girders and catwalks and very little actual industry. Strangely, I don't recall seeing ground enemies in this stage despite not being an air stage.

The boss is the Lord Brandisher which looks very insectile. If you've ever played a Psikyo shmup, thats what this guy is. The bullets are the same small orange discs that Psikyo always uses, and he even uses patterns that look like they come out of Strikers 1945. He'll fire a spread, then aim a smaller spread at you. Much more deadly is his ram attack. He will head straight down screen, and will come back up so don't move back over when he charges.



Stage five is Solomon which is supposed to be where the Runeswords come from. It's a volcano zone. And the lava looks like gelatin. When you see a bunch of enemies line up across the top of the screen, just get between them. They shoot a laser blast and I've never been able to kill one off before it got me.

The boss is called Earthborn. Earthborn starts out as a bomber slightly reminiscent of other Raizing stealth bombers. The main focus should be the turrets on his back as the wing turrets are just easy to dodge spreads. For his second form he flings himself into the lava and turns into a robotic lava monster. He gets a very tricky to dodge spread with different sections moving at different speeds in this form.



For the sixth stage, MORE TETRIS! The falling blocks return. After an even shorter level than normal, you'll meet Flying Fortress. If this was Strikers it'd be a B-17 but here it's a pod. You'll start off by shooting all the dangly bits off the bottom. Then you attack the top, which is a giant hexagon. You'll actually knock off all six sections leaving the middle with a giant laser.



And after that is another boss, End Blue. This stealth bomber has some nasty bullet spreads with a density closer to Cave than most other Raizing games. If you haven't yet figured it out, the trick is to last long enough to activate the super attack and take out some turrets. Take out two or three, and you'll have far fewer bullets to get past.



The last stage is the streets of Yuga. Below you are roads and a ton of tanks. Enemies have some very thick bullet spreads here, looking like some of your recent boss fights. And it's another short level.

The boss is called Void Summoner, but doesn't actually fling black holes or anything like that. It starts out as basically a big dock loaded with turrets. A similar boss appeared in Batrider. Each side turret has another one underneath it for a total of twelve. Destroy it, and the middle pops out and starts flying. Destroy that and it turns into a dinosaur. The attack that killed me the worst was when it would shoot out options that would spray bullets. This was harder to get past than the beast's own attacks.

Instead of a seventh stage, you get to fight the Artificial Seraph. The main attack is an aimed slow pattern of six bullets. This isn't hard. What is hard is the massive spreads from each wing. These bullets glow like Christmas lights and the safe spot is in the middle where those six bullets are. Seraph also has some aimed lasers that move too fast for twitch reflexes. A bit of a pain, but he is the final boss and honestly isn't that bad compared to some of Raizing's other games.



The ending cutscene is actually quite nice, with the camera panning and swinging around while you fly over a low-poly count landscape. See if you can spot where the polygons don't quite fit together right. Oddly, the English ending text is actually quite well done especially for a shooter. No hilarious Engrish. It reads more like a fantasy RPG ending.

Raizing didn't exactly go out with a bang. This was the last shmup they put out and parent Eighting seems content to focus on fighting games. If you really like Raizing, give this one a shot. Oddly enough, while this game is mostly flat Raizing was actually capable of creating deep layers, as they proved with a game called Soukyugurentai...

Overall:







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